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Facebook Controversy: Should Potential Employers Be Allowed to Ask for Your Login Information?

There is a HUGE controversy buzzing around the business world, and rightfully so — potential employers have been asking interviewees for their personal Facebook login information and passwords.

As of right now, there aren’t any laws protecting applicants against this type of questioning, so it’s hard for prospective employees to refuse with the job market the way it is. Employers are saying they need extra information to verify if the candidate is qualified for the position; however, they could easily discriminate with the personal information from the social site. When logged in as yourself, these accounts clearly display information like religion, gender, and race, which are all protected by federal employment laws.

So, what’s being done about this touchy subject?

Gimme your password!

Fork over the login info and password…or else!

Facebook has already commented on the controversy, saying: “We don’t think employers should be asking prospective employees to provide their passwords because we don’t think it’s the right thing to do,” while also adding that “turning down applicants using Facebook can be a very slippery slope” (referring to the applicant’s private and protected information). While Facebook has not yet taken any legal action, they are prepared to engage with policy makers to protect the privacy of their users.

Senators Richard Blumenthal and Charles Schumer are also fighting for the rights of employment applicants, saying that no one should have to give up their private life just to get a job. They are encouraging the Department of Justice and the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to fully investigate the matters at hand. The Senators argue that the inappropriate application questioning is violating the Stored Communications Act (protects citizens against unreasonable searches and seizures online) and the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (disallows intentional access to private computer information without authorization). Also, Senator Leland Yee plans to sponsor a bill that would stop employers from asking for personal social media password information.

But what if it’s not an employer asking for the information, but your school? Recently, colleges have been making student athletes “friend” a school official or coach on Facebook to monitor comments and photos that are meant to be just between friends. Will the bills protect against that? Student privacy is just as important as employee privacy, and this should also be brought to the attention of lawmakers.

Dear Diary...

Would you let a stranger read your diary?

Since Facebook has been popular, I’ve been told to watch what pictures I post and comments I make, because schools and employers watch social media sites for suspicious activity. I never thought, however, I would have to worry about someone asking me for my login information so they can look through my private messages, photos, and friends list. That’s like asking someone for their house keys or access to a private diary. You wouldn’t hand something like that over to a stranger, so why would giving them access to a social media account be any different?

Unfortunately, some people don’t have the option to refuse their information because they are in a tight situation and need the job. Employers are more likely to hire the person who complies with their requests before the applicants who don’t. That’s why bills need to be passed, to protect our rights to privacy. Right?

What are your thoughts? Should employers be allowed to look at job applicants’ Facebook accounts or ask for their personal login information? Have you ever been a victim of this with an employer or school? Let us know in the comments below!

Image credit to birgerking and


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  1. Eric

    Boils down to exclusivity. Originally it was a college network. Then it was expanded to the general public. Then businesses got involved, which – and I know I’ll catch hell for saying it – completely complicated the matter, and blurred the line between personal and professional. Being able to “like” a product or a brand is one thing, but allowing co-workers and supervisors access to your personal life is another. Isn’t being friends with a supervisor a form of inappropriate fraternization, anyhow?

    I don’t think there’s any gray area to be had, and what someone does outside of work should be irrelevant to his or her hiring. If they can’t judge character the way folks have done it for years, perhaps the problem is more about how the company does their hiring, and less about how much (or little) access they have to the Facebook accounts of prospectives.

    It’d be one thing if you applied to be an agent for the FBI. I know their background checks are extensive, and given the security clearance(s) needed for the jobs, it makes sense. But I highly, highly doubt any of the jobs guilty of this privacy breach and anywhere nearly as cool.

    • Jen

      Eric, While writing this post I thought the same thing. What did employers do 10 years ago before social media? They hired a person based on their past employment/resume, schooling, and the interview itself- not rifling through their private things! I completely agree with you, private life is just that, private.

  2. Juliette

    “That’s like asking someone for their house keys or access to a private diary. You wouldn’t hand something like that over to a stranger, so why would giving them access to a social media account be any different?”

    That was EXACTLY what I thought when I first heard the news about this. It would be like an employer asking for the keys to your house and letting them rifle through your dresser! My personal FB (and Twitter) are both set to extreme privacy settings and I prefer to keep it that way. Luckily I’ve never been asked to divulge any of my passwords during an interview.

    As for students…that’s a different matter. Students (at least through high school) aren’t subject to the same privacy and set of rules that adults are. Warrants aren’t needed to search a student’s locker and so I can see a different standard applying to online privacy as well.

    In any case, excellent post, Jen!

    • Jen

      Thanks Juliette, I agree with your point about needing to monitor high school (under the age of 18) students online activity. They should have separate and specific rules applied to monitoring their social media accounts.

      However, anyone over the age of 18, student or otherwise, should have the right to their privacy (It’s just one of the perks to being an adult).

  3. Scooby

    I would definitely give my employer my personal login; I hear they are real swell guys.

    But seriously, would you just give your employer a key to your house and let him/her hang out in your bedroom and check things out whenever he/she pleases?

    Part of me thinks FB puts the idea in someone’s mind, then they start talking, then the news picks it up, and what, FREE ADVERTISING. Hmmm. Gotcha! Emotion creates emotion and what better timing than when FB is pushing the time-line layout. Coincidence? I think not.

    So, yeah, um Bret I decided we are NOT asking for your passcodes, and we asking you keep them ALL to yourlseves. Thanks for offering though. Haha!

    Great article Jen.

    • Jen

      “But seriously, would you just give your employer a key to your house and let him/her hang out in your bedroom and check things out whenever he/she pleases?”

      Thanks, exactly my point!

  4. Jay

    I read about this once in a George Orwell book…. can’t remember the name, hmm.

    This is complete bullshit. I would walk out of the interview/quit the job on principal alone. I’m not friends with most people I work with on FB because I don’t want fellow employees to know what kind of socio-political rants I’m going off on or whatever else I feel like posting occasionally which is more than likely devoid of morals and offensive (unless you like the Dirty Ghosts new video, which you should).

    • Jen

      I agree with your choice to not friend all of your co-workers, Jay. If you use FB for political rants and post offensive material, it’s probably not a good idea.

      I’m friends with a few people in the office (people I talk to all the time). I usually don’t post anything but pics of my dog and sappy stuff about my upcoming wedding anyway, so I don’t really don’t have to worry about offending anyone.

      We all have the right to friend whoever we want. It’s the great thing about social media- you don’t have to be social at all! 🙂

  5. Alex Brodsky

    Another question I bring up is how that question would affect those who 100% legitimately DON’T have a Facebook/Twitter account?

    I don’t qualify in this group (I have Facebook, but will never be a Twit), but believe it or not, there are still some out there who don’t have a Facebook account. If a prospective employer asks for them to log in and they say they don’t have one, will the representative in charge of hiring assume they’re lying? Will that distrust in the candidate force them to move on to another applicant?

    And following up on that, the email account I have linked to Facebook is different than the one I submit on resumes. My privacy settings are secure and almost all the information in my profile is fake for the sake of entertaining myself. The only way an employer could find me is if we somehow have a mutual friend. This would force me into an ethical dilemma as a potential new-hire if asked for my info: Do I deny having one and trust that my private Facebook truly is private? Or do I give them the info and hope they don’t hold my fake job as a streetwalker against me.

    I can say right now that dilemma would make me uncomfortable, leaving me with a poor feeling about that company. I certainly couldn’t spend 8 hours a day someplace I wasn’t comfortable.

    • Jen

      You make a great point Alex. Do people really just say they don’t have an account? And would the employer believer them, it does seem like everyone and their mother already have FB. But some people don’t, so what then?

  6. Jenna Markowski

    I read Facebook’s statement when this controversy broke, and I was honestly surprised by their respect of their users and their willingness to jump to their users’ defense. That was definitely an excellent move on Facebook’s part, considering the mere fear of this situation becoming a regularity would be enough to drive all of Facebook’s customers away.

    I agree with everything that’s been said, especially with Eric’s point that interviewing/hiring was done perfectly fine before the advent of social media. Just because the information is available (if you ask someone for their password) doesn’t mean job applicants should be forced to hand it over.

    This kind of behavior just reminds me of a distrusting and paranoid boyfriend/girlfriend checking up on their significant other by logging into their accounts. I would instantly be turned off from working for that company, and would probably just leave the interview at that point. With the economy in the state it’s in, some people have no other option than to comply, and it is repulsive that employers are taking advantage of that.

    • Jen

      Facebook is being super awesome during this whole debate for their users. I hope it doesn’t come to it, but they are willing to file a law suit it it comes down to privacy protection.

      And I like how you compared the employer to a jealous BF/GF, totally spot on and Hilarious, Jenna!

  7. Candice J.

    My sentiments are pretty much the same as everyone else’s. For children and young adults under the age of 18 years old have no assumption to a right to privacy. Its just a fact, kids might not like it but hey it’s just how it is. With that being said, and having young daughter, I would find it unsettling and a little uneasy if her school or school officials requested her Facebook password. Mainly for the fact that if parents were doing the job they should be doing monitoring their children’s activity in the first place there would not be a need for school/school officials to have it. As a parent, my goal is to be involved as much as possible in my child’s life, even if that means invading her privacy at times. That means not only will we be friends on Facebook, I will also have your passwords to any social media accounts and email accounts, phone locks, etc. You can’t have an expectation of privacy for or on something that I provided, pay the bills for, and continue to provide maintenance towards. That doesn’t mean I’m going to be logging onto your things every moment of every day, but I will have access to at any given time. Hopefully this encourages your child to act as if you are always watching and not to do something that would disappoint or embarrass anyone or themselves.

    Granted, this might not solve every problem or potential situation, but I’d rather be labeled an totally involved boarding over bearing parent than a passive parent who lets their child do whatever they want and lose them to drugs, jail, death, bad choices, etc. As parent, you do whatever you have to for your child to raise them to be the best possible person they can. POINT, BLANK, PERIOD. NO exceptions & NO excuses. If parents were monitoring their children and what they were doing and posting a little more diligently instead of treating them as adults while they still have the mind of child and need to be protected and watched over, as such then maybe there wouldn’t be a need for schools to request this. OK, now that I’ve said my piece about that I will address the next point. Anyone over the age of 18 (if accessing their accounts on a personal device should have EVERY expectation of privacy). That includes college students, workers, etc. NO employer should have the right or need to have that information. You aren’t applying for a job were you are watched like a child so you shouldn’t to feel as if you are or did. I just don’t see a possible need for it. If you can’t decide how you feel about me regarding a job after a resume, reference check, and interview, then perhaps I’m just not the person for a job. I don’t do anything I’m ashamed or shouldn’t be doing or don’t want a employer to necessarily know, but my Facebook is personal. It has pictures and information from personal situations, family vacations, birth of my daughter, etc. To me that is very personal and only meant to share with my closest friends and family. I don’t have any Facebook friends I don’t know personally and I don’t want to share those things with the world. Now if you’re accessing Facebook at work, then that’s on you. You’re taking a chance they could potentially obtain that information and if you’re comfortable with that then so be it. But if you’re doing it from your own personal device it should stay that way, personal and PRIVATE.

    • Dianne

      I agree with the points you made on your post. We need to teach our children what to share and what not to share. We create a social footprint that will follow us for the rest of our life. Children don’t always think before they act, and the consequences could affect them now and in the future. Social networks are a great way to stay connected, but they can also be used to damage people.

  8. Throw Me a Bone

    What’s next… Cameras in the bathrooms?!?!? Wait… That’s a good idea! 🙂

    • Jaimie Smith

      LMAO wow!!
      Consider this my two weeks notice, then… 🙂

  9. Jaimie Smith

    This is just absolutely ridiculous!! I mean, I guess I really do not have much to hide, but that is still a HUGE invasion of privacy. It would just blow my mind if I was sitting in an interview and the employer asked me for that personal information. I wouldn’t know what to do, and when put on the spot like that, who knows what someone might do just because they were nervous.
    And honestly, it is their own personal life. What they do in their personal time should not effect their job postiion.
    If they like to have a few drinks with their friends on saturday night does not mean that they are not a good worker monday thru friday.
    Like you mentioned above, before fb was out, they did not have that to look into.

    All in all, COMPLETE BS!! 🙂

  10. Jeff Porretto

    If someone asked for my login info I would just say no and end the interview. Not because I have anything to hide (I barely even use this newfangled facebook thingy), but because I would never want to work for a company that disregards individuals right to privacy. I’m not a private person, but I sure do like to decide for myself when I want to be!

    Now as far as HAVING to friend a coach or school official in college athletics? TOTALLY understand. Rules for student atheletes behavior are incredibly specific. One mistake could make the player ineligible. Play with an ineligible player and you’re subject to post season bans and millions of dollars lost. So just “Friending” a player seems perfectly reasonable to me.

    Great post!

    • Jen

      Friending a coach…okay I have to say, it’s not that bad of an idea. I can understand having to keep tabs on the players because their actions can affect the whole team and school. But asking for their log-in and password, I still say is a no no.

  11. Amy Swanson

    In college I was told to watch my privacy settings on my social networks and to make sure that I didn’t post anything that could sway a possible employer against hiring me. Because of that I have the strictest settings known to man compared to my friends, haha. If an employer searches my Facebook profile in the “public search” function, I have no problem with that. Hope you don’t mind seeing my profile picture and my education background cause that’s all you’re going to see.

    With that being said, I would walk away from a job if they ever asked for private log-in information, no matter what the job market was like. If a company acts this sketchy and shady in the interview process, what are they acting to be like if I work for them full time?! No thank you!

  12. Rachel

    This boggles my mind. Why in the world would I give an employer my login and password? Putting aside the concerns about what the employer would see/have access to after logging in to my Facebook page … why should I give that employer my PASSWORD in the first place? I find it hard to believe everyone uses one password for Facebook and absolutely nowhere else. What else would that password unlock in that person’s private life?

    I just don’t understand it. I agree with others that I would simply walk away from an interview where this was requested of me. Thanks for this post, though, Jen — it’s good to vent about this, haha. 🙂

  13. Dianne

    I feel that this is an invasion of privacy. Employers and perspective employers can learn all they need to know about applicants through normal chanels. Employers are not allowed to ask applicants about children, religion, and health issues under federal laws but this could be a back door way of gathering information on these off limit subjects. If we allow employers to require current employees and applicants give them access to the private areas on our social networking sites, this will be the death of these sites. The next thing they will demand is the password to our computer files, bank accounts, and email accounts. We need to fight against this encroachment into our privacy.

  14. Jill Tooley

    This is just wrong…I’d NEVER do this! I have nothing to hide, but it’s also none of that employer’s business and I’d refuse on principle alone. I’ve read that there’s a large number of lawyers getting riled up about this controversy, and even they’re saying that it should be against the law because it’s a violation of rights. Doesn’t that tell these employers something?!?

  15. Tim Welch

    There are lots of interesting comments here. Here a few true stories but none deal with asking for anyone’s password to their social networking sites. If your employer asks you why you put a certain post on your facebook page which happened to me, I Told them the truth. I told my boss my friend sent a joke and a link. I was unfamilar with the privacy settings at this time. Two directors gave me the evil eye. Can I see your facebook page? They said it was none of my business. I told them to stay out of my private life. Then I grabbed a recorder and said can we put his on public record. The accountant overheard this conversation and told me to go back to work and wanted to speak to the other Directors alone. Never hear another word.
    One or two quick notes, if they ask for it: Look at them baffled? And ask why? If they start with.. ohh its company policy I just tell them I conform to state and federal laws these trump company policies anyway. That will piss them off. Companies really should err on the side of caution. Is it really relevant to the job? If your boss, supervisor, manager, director is out of line they need to be reported to their superiors. End of story. there was a co-worker who did not receive his paycheck on time according to state laws. Management said they will get around to it. He just quit and filed a claim with the labor board. He won. Another co-worker friend felt that he was being discriminated against. HE went above the management to the board of directors; this was for a different company. That person was asked to resign. Karma is a real bitch.
    One final story, at my last job, I left my job because my boss invited me into a meeting and started on a tirade about why I was not married. none of her business. She asked who my roommate was and who my friends were and she said she did not approve or like my association with them. ONce again, I asked why does any of this matter? What does this have to do with doing my job? My boss kept me in the office for about an hour asking me about my private life. It was rude, unprofessional, and when I left the offcie; I made up my mind right there I will not work for her. Best decision I ever made.

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